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Last weekend, we decided to spend Sunday as a family, and have a ‘nice day out’.

Of course, with our boys, having a nice day out is unlikely at best, but my wife and I nevertheless persevere, in the hope that one day we will take them somewhere for a treat and they won’t be ungrateful little shits about it.

Also, I say ‘we’ decided on a family day out, but this was very much my wife’s suggestion, for the following reasons:

  1. You should spend time with family at Easter;
  2. The forecast promised (and delivered) glorious weather;
  3. Ollie and I were at the football on Saturday and Monday, so Sunday was our only chance to go out as a family before my return to work;
  4. No rational person can survive three consecutive days with only Isaac for company.

Naturally, I couldn’t argue with any of her points, because not only were they all valid, but after nearly fifteen years of marriage I know better than to argue with her at all.

So, having carefully researched our options (while I dozed on the sofa and periodically nodded at what I assumed might be appropriate points), my wife decided we should visit Tatton Park, as it’s less than half an hour from us, and they seemed to have a lot of Easter activities organised over the weekend.

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When we arrived soon after 10am, we firstly headed towards the gardens, where I was persuaded to fork out £33 for a ‘Totally Tatton Ticket’, granting us access to the three main ‘attractions’ – Gardens, Mansion and Farm (I use the term ‘attractions’ loosely, because my personal view is that Nemesis at Alton Towers is an attraction, whereas gardens are merely ‘somewhere the elderly visit’; however my wife is a history teacher, so a 19th Century manor is like history-porn to her).

Having handed over my bank card, while muttering something under my breath about it being ‘so fucking expensive I can’t even use contactless’ (putting my pin in these days seems so last decade), we then entered the gardens themselves, where we were informed there was an ‘Easter Hunt’ going on. Better still, the hunt involved collecting a series of clues (which Ollie loves), by searching for hidden fairy doors (which Isaac loves), and the prize for completing the trail was a bag of chocolate each (which they both love).

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Afterwards, the boys wanted to climb trees in the woods, which always fills me with dread (because they have inherited my clumsiness), so it was bound to end in tears. Sure enough, while Ollie busied himself making a ‘lookout’ roughly six inches off the ground (honestly, he was still below my nipple-height, and I’m not that tall), Isaac opted to scale an entirely smooth part of the tree, with no branches to cling on to. See exhibit A:

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Sure enough, barely seconds after that photo was taken, Isaac did indeed slip, and smacked his head on the floor with such a bump, I honestly felt sick and started working out which was the nearest hospital. Fortunately, the injury wasn’t that bad, because although he immediately screamed bloody murder (which was a good sign, because it showed he didn’t have concussion), it transpired I had underestimated both (a) his protective pony-tail; and (b), the healing power of scoffing the entire bag of Smarties he had just won for completing the trail. Within minutes, he was fine again (albeit with a face covered in tear stains and chocolate smears).

Ollie, on the other hand, was by this point sobbing, because I had shouted at him. I tried to calmly explain that Daddy had only shouted because we thought Isaac might be paralysed, and at that precise moment in time, no, I didn’t give a flying fuck about a building he had spotted that looked like something out of Scooby Doo, but that did nothing to placate him, and he continued howling for far longer than Isaac had. And therein lies a summary of our kids: one is a bit of a wimp, while the other can take a direct – and potentially fatal – blow to the noggin, but recover within minutes.

When Ollie did finally stop crying, and following a further argument between us over the best route out of the gardens (which, rather annoyingly, he won – meaning I never got to perform the victory dance I had carefully choreographed), we stopped off for a quick picnic lunch, before making our way to Tatton Hall itself.

Once inside the Grade-I listed building, we realised there was another Easter hunt going on (with a further bag of Smarties on offer), only this time we had to walk around the house spotting clues to famous fairy tales. At this point, the ‘princess’ we had passed on the way in (a lady in a gold dress and tiara, who I had thought at the time was somewhat over-dressed, particularly considering most of the men around us were shirtless) suddenly made sense, and Isaac decided it was ‘Belle’ from Beauty and the Beast.

My wife therefore suggested we search for ‘the Beast’ (although didn’t appreciate me immediately pointing to my crotch and shouting ‘found it!’), and we discovered him in the next room. Both boys then surprised me, since the previously timid Isaac immediately went to hug the Beast for a photo, while Ollie pulled out a semi-decent joke, by wishing him ‘Happy Beaster’. Ok, it’s never going to win best joke at the Edinburgh Fringe, but for Ollie it was a comedic triumph (I honestly thought the elderly lady next to us was going to wet herself, although the same might have been true regardless).

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As the hunt continued, we ended up downstairs in the servants’ quarters, where my wife went into history teacher mode, educating our boys about the 19th Century class system. It was at this point she spotted a costume box, where kids could dress up like the impoverished youth of that period.

Now, if there is one thing I (apparently) find irresistible, it is the opportunity to dress like a Victorian maid, because that was the first costume I instinctively grabbed – shoving Isaac out of the way in the process. Please understand, it’s not that I enjoy dressing in women’s clothes per se, but for some reason I was drawn to the maid’s outfit over that of, say, the chimney sweep. I can’t explain it, but it’s not the first time this has happened (in the second photo below, taken a few years ago, we didn’t even have our kids with us), so it’s dangerously close to becoming a weird fetish.

Having successfully completed the hunt, the boys were awarded their chocolate prize by, quite frankly, the oldest fairy godmother I have ever seen, and we emerged from the adumbral (thank you, online thesaurus) Tatton Hall corridors, back into the Easter sunshine.

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As luck would have it, we overheard someone say the princess (who, it transpired, was Cinderella, not Belle), was posing for photographs nearby, so Isaac insisted we head straight there, and we found her soon afterwards, alongside one of her ugly sisters – who made my earlier attempt at drag look positively sexy.

When Isaac reached the front of the queue, my wife decided to avoid any awkward misunderstandings by introducing him as a ‘prince meeting a princess’. To her credit, Cinders got the hint, and even went so far as to crouch down to tell Isaac that his hair was fantastic, that more boys should have long hair, and he should never, ever, cut it.  This made his day. Bless her.

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From there, we headed to the farm, where we were informed ‘story time’ had just started in one of the buildings. Having dashed over, we discovered a lady reading ‘The Gingerbread Man’ to a group of children, but space was limited, so I was left on one side of the room with a strange family (I’m sure they were perfectly pleasant, but they were strange to me), while my wife and boys sat opposite.

As if this weren’t weird enough, another couple then arrived and squeezed in through the door next to me, meaning I had to stand/crouch immediately behind my newly adopted family, while the latest arrivals blocked my exit (I had been planning to make a quiet escape when no one was looking).

Worse, they were clearly not my kind of people, as they were both extremely aware of how good-looking they thought they were (he had his ‘guns’ out in a vest-top, while she was wearing a long dress more suited to Marbella than a farm, together with enough fake tan to drown a fucking horse, and the sort of ludicrously-long false eyelashes that would have looked better on said horse before its mahogany-coloured demise).

In fact, she appeared to be the only person less-impressed to be there than me, whereas at least muscles attempted a few animal noises at the appropriate parts of the story (when, incidentally, Isaac nailed his pig impression, and I don’t think he’s ever made me prouder – which says a lot about his achievements to date).

To end the day, because the boys had achieved a cumulative total of seventeen minutes where they hadn’t been completely dreadful, we decided to go for dinner at a nearby pub as a final treat (read: reward for Daddy for not killing anyone).

Here, Ollie informed us that Easter Sunday is his ‘third favourite day of the year’ (after Christmas Day and his birthday), because ‘you get to eat chocolate all the time, even for breakfast in bed’. I had to then point out that, actually, he wasn’t allowed to eat chocolate in bed, because there was no way Daddy would be sniffing any brown stains on his sheets to check if they were Cadbury’s or shit.

And, while we’re on the subject of shit (sorry), Isaac yet again decided he needed the toilet just as our food arrived, and since he was very much anti-Daddy by this point, it fell to my wife to accompany him to the bathroom.

When they returned several minutes later, I asked if it had been a successful visit (Isaac encounters a lot of false alarms), and my wife’s response of ‘I can’t un-see what just happened’ told me everything I needed to know. I certainly didn’t need Isaac to loudly announce to the entire pub:

“My poo was so big, the water splashed my bum!”

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Thanks for reading x

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Run FatBlog Run (Tatton Park)

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Last Sunday, I took part in the fourth of my 10k races this year, at Tatton Park in Cheshire.

Those of you who know me – or who have been reading the blog entries about my charity challenge – will be aware that I detest running with every fibre of my being, and, by all accounts, I’m a bit shit at it (ok, I’m a lot shit at it).

So far, I have pulled various muscles in my legs and back; I’ve tripped and injured my left elbow and knee;  my right hip has started crunching when I walk up stairs; and, most recently, I collapsed at the finish line of the Whitchurch 10k in April, resulting in several hours in a medical tent, plus two hospital visits (the latter of which was an overnight stay in a ward with very elderly – and grumpy – men).

Running: Hazardous and stupid

To put it bluntly – and as I explained on my Facebook page not so long ago – I am to running, what Vladimir Putin is to world peace: fucking hopeless.

However, despite my utter ineptitude when it comes to running – and lack of fitness in general – I have always been able to manage a sprint finish at each of the previous events (even though I didn’t quite achieve this at the Whitchurch 10k; and, ultimately, it was pushing myself too much at the end of the race which proved to be my downfall); but, on this occasion, I decided I would give the fast finish a miss, no matter what the signs were telling me:

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Not this time, ta

So, after a cringe-worthy mass warm-up, organised with the assistance of a local fitness instructor (which Ollie joined in with, and Isaac sort of freestyle danced to), we headed towards the start line.

Somewhat unusually, the announcer then began lining us up at the start, according to what approximate time we were expecting to finish in – those (proper athletes) around the 35-minute mark were first; followed by anyone hoping for a sub-40 time; and  so on, continuing in five-minute increments from there. So, having run all my previous races in just under fifty minutes, I decided to stick with that estimate, and gathered at the start line with my fellow sub-50 mates.

It turns out that the majority of people who expect to run a 10k in under fifty minutes, are either stupid, deaf, or plain fucking lying, because when the race started, I honestly could have crawled past them they were going so slow. I can see the logic behind trying to stagger the runners in order of predicted speed, but the organisers appear to have never been on a flight before, since we all know that people are generally stupid, and when told to board an aircraft in designated row announcements, they will ignore this and push forward whenever the mood takes them. The same principle applied here – people saw a queue, ignored all instructions, and joined it randomly, like sheep.

Consequently, when the race got underway, I had to try and run around these morons at the side of the path, which messed up my own start – and pacing – and left me struggling before even the 2k marker. I did, however, put on a brave face as I ran past my family:

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The situation – and my mood – wasn’t helped by the fact my mp3 player had stopped working, so I had to try and fix it, whilst dodging around idiots. And if there is one thing I hate, it’s slow idiots.

Thankfully, I completed the run without any major incident, although I still went home feeling somewhat disappointed with my performance.

On the positive side, I managed to complete the course without any assistance – whether that be from a fellow runner, or someone of the medical profession – on a day when a number of people dropped out of the race due to the heat; and after what happened at Whitchurch, I was just glad to get another 10k under my belt.

At the same time, however, I really wanted to complete all ten races in under fifty minutes, and, more importantly, I was desperate to run them all without having to walk at any point – however, on this occasion, both of those targets sadly eluded me.

In fairness, after what happened at Whitchurch, the sub-50 minute target was not so much of a concern, as I didn’t want to risk pushing myself to get a good time only to end up in an ambulance again, but when I had to stop at the half way-stage (where the water station was situated), and walk because of the heat, I was really pissed off. Unfortunately, no amount of convincing myself that it was better to walk than collapse, made me feel any better about the situation. I was gutted (I still am).

At this stage, I know most people – particularly my family and friends – will say that it was better to finish the race than risk my health, and I know after what happened last time it was an achievement to even ‘get back in the saddle’ (metaphorically speaking); but I still cannot help feeling disappointed, and keep wondering if I could have coped until the finish line, had I pushed myself to continue running.

With that in mind, I haven’t ruled out re-entering the Tatton 10k later in the year (it is, after all, the only one of my events to take place monthly, as opposed to annually), but I will see what the next few bring in June, July and August – when it could be really hot weather. The main thing is, I have now finished four races, and that means I am almost half way through this hugely regrettable challenge.

So, without further ado, here are the scores on the doors:

Time: 54:13 (my slowest time yet – by around five minutes – but that’s because I had to stop and walk for a bit).

Position: 181st (out of 545), so – just about – in the top-third of all entrants (an unofficial target).

Cost: £18.00

Course: Relatively flat (although not quite as flat as I had hoped), but very picturesque, including a nice loop around the lake, and mostly smooth tarmac. 8/10

Weather: Dry and sunny, but too damn hot 6/10

Organisation: Two detailed e-mails prior to the event, with plenty of pre-race information, and a well-organised set-up on the day (although they do hold this race every month, so you would expect them to be pretty good at it by now).

Plenty of enthusiastic marshals, all of whom were shouting words of encouragement (including one who was high-fiving everyone as they ran past him); clear markers at each kilometre point; and a very quick and easy registration process. Oh, and they let me have my headphones in. Good work, Tatton. 9/10

Official Photos: There were at least two professional photographers on the day, and although my ‘poses’ were shit (look, I was tired and I panicked), this isn’t their fault. The photos were free, and uploaded onto the event’s Facebook page by the end of the day. Again, impressive. 8/10

Medal: Very unique and colourful, well made and solid. Plus it contains a lady runner with ample cleavage, so what’s not to like? 9/10

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Goody-bag: Ah, it was going so well. No goody-bags on offer, and no t-shirt either (I think they spent all the entry fee on the medal) 0/10

Post-race refreshment: We were given plenty of water (which was a good job in that heat), together with bananas and one of the nicest flapjacks I’ve ever spent half an hour chewing (my mouth was very dry, rather than this being the flapjack’s fault) 7/10 (purely for the flapjack)

Summary:

Course – 8/10

Weather – 6/10

Organisation – 9/10

Photos – 8/10

Medal – 9/10

Goody-bag – 0/10

Refreshments – 7/10

Meaning a total score of 47/70 (or 67%) – Tatton Park would have been a clear leader at this stage, if they’d only given us a little goody bag to take home; but as it is, they remain in second place behind the ill-fated Whitchurch 10k:

Whitchurch 49/70           (70%)

Tatton Park 47/70            (67%)

Oulton Park 46/70            (66%)

Poynton 39/70                   (56%)

My next race is at Colshaw Hall (near Knutsford) on 17th June, where apparently the course sends us around this bad boy…

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Last but by no means least, if you’d like to sponsor me (please do, if you haven’t already, as I’m hating every second of this), here’s a reminder of my Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greg10x10k

Thanks for reading x

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